All a beginner to yoga needs is an open mind. You don't have to be able to touch your hands to your toes; or twist your body into impossible shapes. You should go in expecting only one thing -- to become flexible in body, mind and spirit. Start with these 10 poses, and you will have learned the basics of this ancient and life-altering discipline.
Mountain is the core pose of your yoga practice. The alignment you develop in this pose will carry over into every other pose you attempt, even after you reach more advanced levels. In addition to lining up your body correctly, you balance your weight evenly between both feet, which stabilizes you in later balances.
You might notice that many of the poses in a beginner yoga sequence are standing poses that strengthen your body's foundation and support. Low Lunge works the quadriceps, the large muscle group in the thighs, while stretching the hip flexors. High Lunge, with the back knee lifted, opens the hamstrings, as well.
Jason Crandell wrote an article, "Triangle Pose" for YogaJournal.com. He says, "Trikonasana, like so many yoga poses, combines many elements in one posture." Triangle expands your torso in all four directions, releases your chest and shoulders, enhances balance, builds strength in your legs, and even provides a mild twist.
Tree is one of the first standing balances you might learn. You balance on one foot and lengthen your body, creating space all along your spine. More subtle enhancements of the pose involve opening your groin and relaxing your shoulders, which will prevent injury in more advanced poses.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is yet another multi-functional pose. It is an inversion, which means your head is at a lower level than your heart. You also get the benefit of a forward bend, a shoulder opener, an upper body strengthener, and a mild backbend.
Crandell, in a YogaJournal.com article on Cobra, calls it a "baby backbend"; that "can help compensate for all those hours spent hunched in front of a computer." Cobra opens your chest and shoulders, and builds your back muscles to improve overall posture. Like other backbends, Cobra boosts your energy, too.
Seated Forward Bend
Contrary to a backbend, Seated Forward Bend has a calming effect on your nervous system. Because your body is folded, you can block outside distractions and bring your focus inward. Physically, your hamstrings and spine lengthen. While the sensation can be intense, it can also be a relief for your lower back.
Generally, twists wring out and stimulate your internal organs, particularly those in your digestive system. Reclining Twist works well for you as a beginner because you use the floor as a guide to keep your shoulders and hips in correct alignment.
Bound Angle and Corpse
Seated in Bound Angle, your groin and inner thighs experience a release. You can vary this beginner posture by folding forward with the added perk of freeing your spine and cooling your energy. This pose leads well into Corpse pose. Corpse brings your body into a state of deep relaxation and finishes off your practice.